Defense News Conclave: Stories of U.S.-India Defense Partnership

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Background and context :

Under the Defence News Conclave Project, supported by the U.S. Department of State through the U.S. Consulate General, Kolkata, CUTS International is organizing this project. The project deliverables aim to create a group of informed stakeholders in India for strengthening U.S.-India Defence and Security Partnership by generating necessary awareness of diverse media professionals and other relevant stakeholders. The project covers sessions focusing on good practices of the U.S.-India Defence and Security Partnership in general and its relevance for the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership in the Indo-Pacific region in particular. Among others, the conclave will look at the milestones set and achieved, policies and gaps to be filled in to secure a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

In light of the above, CUTS International, through this project, will organise a series of in person and virtual workshops for training 120-150 informed journalists, storytellers, media professionals, social media influencers, and community leaders from India, on the subject. Defence experts, government officials, corporate leaders, defence companies, entrepreneurs, and researchers from the U.S and India would be chosen to impart the training. The workshops would be concluded with a Defence News Conclave.

 

Need for the Project

The ethos of U.S.-India defense partnership is best described in the words of the U.S. Secretary of Defense General (Retd.) Lloyd James Austin III during his visit to India in March 2021. He said, “India in particular is an increasingly important partner among today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics. I reaffirm our commitment to a comprehensive and forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar to our approach to the region.” The secretary remarked that the India-U.S. defense partnership will grow in the coming years and that the relationship is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Recent developments back-up such words. A few notable examples in this regard include: the trilateral Malabar naval exercise in February 2021, the quadrilateral Malabar naval exercise in 2020 with Japan and Australia, the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue led by the Secretaries of State and Defense, combined with USD 20 billion in defense sales since 2008 (including Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, and M777 ultra-lightweight artillery).

Furthermore, U.S. and India have signed crucial defense information sharing agreements such as: Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for sharing geospatial information, and the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) to our General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) for sharing sensitive government information which facilitates industrial collaboration. Such U.S. commitments and partnership with India, underpin regional stability and remarkable economic rise of this region, while also deterring any aggressive actions by other countries in the region.

Despite the above, the general perception amongst the Indian populace undermines U.S.- India defense ties in contrast with defense ties with other countries (for instance, with Russia). It, therefore, becomes important to amplify the message of the need for a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific, and highlight the importance of a U.S.-India defense partnership for the same.

Objectives and Outcomes


Objective
  • Act as a capacity-building initiative for media professionals and other relevant stakeholders
  • Facilitate meaningful dialogues between experts and participants for a better understanding of the relevance and nuances of the U.S.-India Defence and Security Partnership for the ‘good’ of the world in general and the Indo-Pacific region in particular
  • Develop a better understanding of good practices in joint development of advanced defence related technologies for promoting a positive narrative on the U.S.-India Defence and Security Partnership, especially in the context of evolving geopolitical, including geo-strategic and geo-economics, developments in the Indo-Pacific region.
Outcome
  • A sustained platform for free-flowing interaction on issues related to U.S.-India Defence and Security Partnership
  • Act as a capacity-building initiative for young media professionals
  • Facilitate a meaningful dialogue to understand how the media stakeholders are thinking about defence-related issues.
  • Partnership – joint production possibilities of equipment and materials, opportunities and challenges for various sectors involved, and overall enhanced capacity to report and write on related issues..

Activities


The following activities will be conducted over a period of two years:

a) Training and capacity-building of 120 to 150 (in batches of 30-40) informed journalists, storytellers, media professionals, social media influencers, and community leaders from India. This will be done through a series of in person and virtual workshops with 25 to 35 defence experts, government officials, private players, and researchers from U.S. and India..

b)  A two-day final Defence News Conclave will be held in India's capital city New Delhi, designed to provide participants with diverse perspectives and access to experts on defence topics of U.S. and India. The event will serve as a platform for discussion and experience sharing. Resource persons will include professionals from relevant agencies, think tanks, and media organisations in both India and the U.S. Additionally, research-based training materials and reports will be prepared and distributed to attendees during the conclavee.

c) The project will prepare and distribute a series of research-based briefing papers addressing key topics such as India’s defence exports, joint military exercises between the U.S. and India, the significance of their defence relationship within Indo-Pacific geopolitics, and an analysis of the past, present, and future of India-U.S. defence ties. Additionally, these papers will explore U.S.-India defence agreements and cooperation dialogues, ensuring comprehensive dissemination of this information..

d) Stakeholders will be encouraged to develop around 50 to 75 stories in English and vernacular languages on the subject of U.S.-India defense relations for consumption of the general public. These will be widely disseminated within 6-12 months of the Conclave.

e) The project will regularly publish quarterly news wraps summarising key developments related to the US-India defence partnership, along with a bi-part booklet of FAQs addressing topics like the relevance of QUAD and U.S.-India defence relations in the Indo-Pacific, and specific US-India defence agreements and regulations..

f) Project reports will be compiled, documenting the findings, lessons learned, and recommended next steps from the project. These reports will serve as comprehensive records for stakeholders and guide future initiatives.

Objectives and Outcomes


This project ultimately aims to create a group of informed stakeholders (journalists from India in particular), who would strengthen the information sharing circuit related to the importance of a robust U.S.–India Defense partnership, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. Wide dissemination of the highlights and future prospects of this defense partnership, through mass media, will help create a positive narrative amongst the general public on this subject.

In this regard, two key expected outcomes from the project are as follows: A) Training and awareness generation, B) Information generation and dissemination- on U.S.–India Defense partnership.

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